Young People Ask . . .
Why Should I Put Myself Out for Others?
“WHOSE interests come first in your life?” An Awake! reporter posed this question to a group of youths on a crowded street. “My own,” said Mike. “I look out for ‘number one’ first, last, and always.” Seventeen-year-old Susie said: “If it came down to either my family’s welfare or mine, mine would take first place.”
Sad to say, such sentiments are common. A book called The Postponed Generation tells of a study of 1,125 students in which two sociologists tried to find out whether young people were primarily concerned about themselves or about society. The results? About 80 percent proved to be “looking out for themselves, without sensitivity or obligation to society.”
Little wonder, then, that few are willing to put themselves out for others, to be inconvenienced or to go out of their way for someone other than themselves. Books such as The Art of Selfishness and Looking Out for Number One become best-sellers, serving as little more than blueprints for the development of self-centered behavior. As the Bible prophesied, people today are “lovers of themselves.”—2 Timothy 3:1, 2.
How, though, do you respond to the needs of others? If, for example, you’re ready to settle down and watch your favorite television program and Mom or Dad asks you to go to the store, do you become angry or resentful? Do you balk at the idea of doing chores around the home, sharing clothing or living space with a brother or a sister, or simply doing someone a favor when it is ‘inconvenient’? Then it is time for you to make some changes. But why? And more important, how?
The Origin of Selfishness
God’s law for his people is: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) This means we are obliged to be caring, selfless, sensitive to the needs of others. Nevertheless, we do not always measure up to this shining ideal, and the Bible helps us to understand why. At Genesis 8:21 it says: “The inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up.”
Our forefather Adam cared little how his rebellious deed would affect others. It should not surprise us, then, that we, his offspring, are born with a selfish streak. (Compare Psalm 51:5.) This becomes manifest surprisingly early in life. Parents magazine observes: “All toddlers are self-centered. . . . They’re interested in you but only when you’re doing something for them.” Left unchecked, selfishness may become a persisting character trait.
Another trait that hinders one from putting oneself out for others is laziness. (Proverbs 21:25) Indeed, when laziness reigns, one will concoct outlandish excuses to avoid doing things. Says Proverbs 22:13: “The lazy one has said: ‘There is a lion outside! In the midst of the public squares I shall be murdered!’”
What Helping Others Involves
The parable of the neighborly Samaritan recorded at Luke 10:29-37 shows that helping others may involve real self-sacrifice. In answer to the question, “Who really is my neighbor?” Jesus told of a Jewish man who was beaten by robbers and left for dead. Despite racial tensions that existed between Jews and Samaritans, a Samaritan man was moved to put himself out for the crime victim. He cared for the man’s wounds, using wine and oil from his own provisions. Then he gently lifted the man onto his beast and took him to an inn. He paid the innkeeper about two days’ worth of wages and promised to pay any additional expenses incurred.
This moving illustration captures the essence of what it means to put oneself out for others: to take the initiative, to make oneself a neighbor to others. It involves being willing to sacrifice time, energy, and expense. Let’s discuss some ways to do this.
Putting Yourself Out for Your Family
Your closest neighbors are your family members—parents, brothers, sisters. You may feel, however, that those closest to you should understand your busy life and not make undue demands on you. Nevertheless, the Bible exhorts: “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9) Try viewing the seeming inconveniences that may result, not as annoyances, but as an opportunity to strengthen the family bond.
Eddie recalls: “Mom’s schedule often left her exhausted. But I’ll never forget the look on her face as she opened the door and found the dishes washed, floors scrubbed, and table set for dinner. I’ll admit I would have loved to have been playing ball on those occasions, but putting myself out helped draw our family closer together.” Can you think of some ways to put yourself out for your family members?
Being Neighborly to Fellow Christians
Said the apostle Paul: “Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Galatians 6:10) Much happiness results when you expend yourself in behalf of fellow Christians.—Acts 20:35.
Sixteen-year-old Chris, for example, is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He enjoys running errands for an elderly member of the local congregation. On one occasion she phoned him for help. The elevator in her apartment building was out of order, and because she was unable to climb five flights of stairs, she was stranded. Upon arriving, Chris said: “Get on my back, and I will haul you up if it’s okay with you.” Up they went to the fifth floor! Tiring? No doubt. But Chris was rewarded not only with the gratitude of his elderly friend but with the knowledge that his actions pleased God!
You need not wait for such dramatic situations to show your concern for others, however. For example, before and after Christian meetings, some youths tend to congregate together, excluding older ones. This runs contrary to the Bible’s counsel to “show consideration” for older ones. (Leviticus 19:32) Sometimes, a friendly hello or a brief conversation is all it takes to cheer up an elderly one. ‘But it’s hard for me to talk to old people,’ you might object. ‘We have little in common.’
Doug, who now serves as an elder in the Christian congregation, fondly recalls: “At age 19 my best friends were old enough to be my parents or grandparents. How greatly they contributed to my spiritual growth!” Why not put yourself out a bit and make a point of befriending some elderly ones, perhaps at your next Christian meeting? You will usually find that you have far more in common than you realized! And like Doug, you will find that you can learn from their valuable experience in life.
Helping “Those on the Outside”
At Colossians 4:5 the apostle Paul said: “Go on walking in wisdom toward those on the outside, buying out the opportune time for yourselves.” Jehovah’s Witnesses show concern for others by preaching the Bible’s message. (Matthew 24:14) Youths who take seriously their obligation before God are motivated to have as full a share in this work as possible.
“I expend myself in the preaching work because of my love for Jehovah,” says Tamitha. Though only 11 years old, she spends many hours each month in evangelizing work. “Preaching also gives me an opportunity to show love for my neighbors.” Instead of seeking lucrative jobs, thousands of Christian youths have made a career of serving others as full-time evangelizers, often working part-time to support themselves. Others have volunteered to be missionaries or workers at various branch offices of the Watch Tower Society.
You Gain by Giving
“People need other people for their health’s sake,” said American Health magazine. Researchers even claim that people who put themselves out for others derive health benefits. Jesus Christ, however, pointed to yet another benefit, saying: “Practice giving, and people will give to you.” (Luke 6:38) The generous person wins the affections of others; invariably he becomes the recipient of generosity himself!—Compare Proverbs 11:25.
So practice giving, putting yourself out for others. Whenever your selfish streak manifests itself, remember that God’s Word says: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” (1 Corinthians 10:24) By doing so you will gain not only the friendship of others but the approval of the Most High God.
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Putting ourselves out for others brings great happiness